Living in a condo can be a pleasant, more affordable, and lower-maintenance housing choice for many. Condo living can also be a misery for some – and it’s those people who call our office.
Condo residents call us to complain about investor-apartments being rented out on Airbnb, surprise hikes in condo fees, condo boards that refuse to hold fair elections, property managers that don’t do their job, and new buildings rife with flaws and defects, from poor ventilation to flooding.
Over 1.3 million residents live in condos, sharing everything from elevators, air, and party rooms. Some of these buildings are so big they have multi-million budgets and house as many people as small towns. Just like there are rules for towns, there needs to be fair enforceable rules for good condo living.
The province has been too slow at taming the wild west of the condo housing sector and passing laws to ensure people live in well-made, well-maintained, and well-managed condos.
The previous-Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, along with NDP, Conservative and Liberal MPPs have issued a series of reports and recommendations directing the Ontario government and the regulatory agencies responsible for the condo sector to strengthen protections for condo residents. The most recent report was released in November; it shows that while some progress has been made, we still have a long way to go.
Here’s where we’ve made some improvements. The independent agencies that regulate condo boards and property managers have improved their lacklustre performance. They’ve made some headway in cracking down on unlicensed property managers, and improved the way they handle and investigate complaints from residents about poorly performing property managers and condo boards.
Here’s where we have fallen short. The Government responsible for governing the entire condo sector, however, has implemented just 4% of the recommendations it was asked to take.
The Conservatives have not moved forward on requiring developers to use a standard legal contract when selling a new condo, so homebuyers aren’t ripped off. No first-time homeowner wants the horror of turning the key to their front door and discovering they bought a home that is more expensive, smaller, and lacks the indoor parking they were promised at sale — but that’s what is happening in Ontario today.
Condo board directors are still allowed to sit on a condo board even if they don’t own or live in the building. Why anyone would do this is beyond me.
The government seems very unwilling to hold developers accountable for the quality and maintenance of their buildings. The government needs to stop developers from deliberately undercalculating current and future condo fees, as well as failing to set aside enough money in reserve for long-term building maintenance. These lax rules mean reserve funds get depleted too fast and condo residents get a nasty surprise bill to replace infrastructure that had predictably reached the end of its lifespan.
While they’ve signalled their interest, the Conservatives have not yet expanded the power of the Condominium Authority Tribunal so the tribunal can hear and resolve the most common complaints residents face. These issues include condo board governance, property management, condo fees, repairs in common areas, short-term rentals, and reserve funds. Currently, the Condo Tribunal only hears disputes on pets, parking, storage, personal property, nuisance, and a condo board’s management of its records.
Cities and the province are wisely planning for more of us to live vertically. Ontario has a laudable goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next ten years. To protect our farmland, forests, and wetlands, it is imperative Ontario increase density and permit more buildings in areas already zoned for development, especially near public transit routes.
Now is the time to make condo living a pleasant experience and not a miserable one. To improve the quality of life of the growing number of Ontarians who call a condo their home, Ontario’s legislators need to take these carefully studied recommendations and make them law.